The one key ingredient missing from many so-called “fruit snacks” is, well, actual fruit. One notable exception: Peaceful Fruits, a social enterprise in Akron, Ohio, that provides jobs for local adults with disabilities and supports sustainable growers in the Amazon region.
As Forbes.com reports, Peaceful Fruits’ founder Evan Delahanty says his company offers “the most natural and highest-quality fruit snack on the market.” Described as “organic fruit strips,” they’re made with nothing but real, honest-to-goodness fruit—no sugar, corn syrup or maldodextrin—plus, in some cases, an added splash of lemon or orange juice.
“We take whole organic fruit, blend it up, and then slow-dry it overnight to make a real, authentic fruit snack,” Delahanty told Forbes.
The company sources some of its fruit from sustainable harvesters in the Amazon rainforest, including an antioxidant-rich berry called acai. Delahanty discovered acai while serving with the Peace Corps in the Amazon region. Many of the snack flavors feature a combination of fruits like strawberry and peach with an acai drizzle.
To produce the snacks, Peaceful Fruits partners with the Blick Center, an Akron nonprofit, as well as Hattie Larlham, another local nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities. Peaceful Fruits uses Hattie Larlham’s shared commercial kitchen space and pays 29 of their adult clients to process, package and ship the product. The company has sold more than 300,000 fruit snacks since 2014.
Delahanty got a major PR boost from an appearance on “Shark Tank.” Although Peaceful Fruits wasn’t chosen by the judges, he told a local TV station that the company received more than 1,000 online orders within minutes after the show aired.
The company was also named an eBay “Everyday Hero” in 2018.
“We’re talking about directly impacting people’s lives,” Delahanty told Forbes. “We’ve had the privilege of creating work opportunities—jobs that (pay) at least minimum wage—for these people. They are a core part of our production process. They get a paycheck, a T-shirt and are part of a team.”
In the eBay video, Kim Smith, one of the Peaceful Fruits employees, said working for the company “gives me a sense of pride and happiness … This job … has helped me learn that I am capable of anything.”